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Forum Post: Joseph Stiglitz: 'The American Dream Has Become A Myth'

Posted 1 year ago on Oct. 3, 2012, 4:37 p.m. EST by brightonsage (4494)
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Huffington Post

This should come as a shock to exactly nobody, but Stiglitz has the data.

Rising from rags to riches isn't the American dream, it's an American fairytale, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

"The American dream has become a myth," Stiglitz, an economics professor at Columbia University, told the German news magazine Der Spiegel in an interview published Tuesday. "The belief in the American dream is not supported by the data."

There's evidence to support such claims. The U.S. has less economic mobility than Canada and much of Western Europe, according to economic research cited by The New York Times. Seven in ten Americans that start out in the bottom fifth of family income stay in the lower class as adults, and more than six in ten Americans that start out in the top family income quintile stay in the upper class as adults, according to a July report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

While the data may not be there to back the idea of the American dream, there are some that still consider it to be pretty important. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, for his part, said last year that "70 percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state."

Stiglitz told Der Spiegel that in spite of anecdotes about poor people becoming rich, overall "the life chances of a young U.S. citizen are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in any other advanced industrial country for which there is data."

Fortunately, Romney only has to come up with a solution for the 53% (Ryan says 70%, you expect them to agree?) minus of course the 2% who are already rich, so 51% who still believe in the myth and want to go there.

His formula was to be born rich and connected, then start a business with Goldman's money and the guarantee of "success or you get your cushy job back." Oh, and after you are doubly rich, give your kids large trust funds and invest in their start up companies, and give the surplus to your favorite nonprofit power block. Do I have that right?

Some of us would have liked to try it with that formula. "Go East young man," said Horace, Not-so Greeley" Try Sweden, Denmark or Estonia.

43 Comments

43 Comments


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[-] 2 points by Underdog (2971) from Clermont, FL 1 year ago

If this report is factual and true, then we have a caste system like India, not a class system where upward mobility is possible. If this report is accurate, the entire point of Occupy has just been rendered moot.

[-] 1 points by Ache4Change (3158) 1 year ago

Nothing is moot and OWS is needed more than ever. It's all all up for grabs and of course we have a caste system in America lol.

[-] 2 points by stevebol (1269) from Milwaukee, WI 1 year ago

We have to make the best of the caste system we are given. It's obvious neither of the two major parties will help the lower class much.

[-] 2 points by Ache4Change (3158) 1 year ago

90% of us are 'lower class' I think. Why aren't we handing out the pitchforks yet? Have you seen 'INSIDE JOB'? Here you go - http://vimeo.com/24981578 .

[-] 3 points by stevebol (1269) from Milwaukee, WI 1 year ago

I'm watching it now. I've heard much of this before but the movie seems to be well made. It's worth watching.

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3158) 1 year ago

Thank-you, you made my day! It gets better and better - the film that is, not my day - and by the end you really feel that your time was very well spent. Please show your friends and family. I'll have the kids reciting it from memory before the year is out!

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

I believe the definition of facts requires them to be true, otherwise they are just GOP talking points.

Actually, if others can/have solved the problem, we might just suspend American exceptionalism long enough to get on board?

[-] 0 points by alva (-442) 1 year ago

do you actualy know what a caste system is? thousands of people came/come to america and made a better life for themselves and their families. they built succesful busines's , both large and small. there is no " caste" system, anyone with enough drive and ambition , coming from any economic background can achieve . nothing holds a person to an economic class but themselves.

[-] 2 points by stevebol (1269) from Milwaukee, WI 1 year ago

The American caste system is based on education unlike India's. Look where the masters of the big financial meltdown went to college; private schools, Ivy League, etc.. The people that pretend to have a problem with them went to the same schools.

[-] 0 points by alva (-442) 1 year ago

both jobs and gate dropped out of college.so did daniel abraham, tom anderson, steve ballmer,carl bernstein,disney,ellison,englander paul allen and on and on and on.

[-] 1 points by Ache4Change (3158) 1 year ago

'The American Dream Has Become A Myth' huh? More than that, it has become a Nightmare for far too many of us. How? Why? Maybe this - http://vimeo.com/24981578 has something to do with it all!

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

This is a very accurate picture of what went wrong and what hasn't been fixed.

[-] 1 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

Well it is true that a kid from a poor family can rise to the top, become a CEO, that can still happen.

The thing is that the few poor kids who mangage to become CEOs because they are super smart and they worked hard lose sight of the fact that those of us without the right stuff still have a right to live.

Overachievers sneer at underachievers. Winners hate losers

WE ALL HAVE A RIGHT TO LIVE!!

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Yes, we all have a right to live, in the same sense that we all have a right to opportunity. We are born with them and we can use them wisely or we can throw them away. Throwing life away only happens once. In the case of opportunity, you can ignore it, and you can misuse it in several ways and multiple times and still have access to it. You can lose your access to opportunity for reasons of misconduct, as well.

But, our right to live is not unconditional. You can disqualify your right to life by abusing other's rights to it.

[-] 1 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

That is a sobering reality, good point.

There are, however, also the disabled who never had an opportunity because they could not compete, or the severely disabled who can barely function. As a civil society, and because they are someone's family member, we all share the burden of supporting them with the welfare system.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

They have a right to live, but I would put the support of the disabled in the category of "social compact" in which the majority says, "that could be me," so I am willing to pay my share of their support to gain a share of the same commitment from the majority to help me if (when) I should need it.

[-] 0 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

Yes, that makes sense - is it right for those families with a disabled child to be totally impoverished in trying to care for the child? No.... and especially when more and more of the disabling birth defects and so on are CAUSED by pollution - lead, and mercury ['heavy metals"] for example, is a known cause of disability and coal-burning power plants are producing huge amounts of lead and mercury.

This gets back to your post about opportunity - not only are there a significant number of people who cannot compete for the limited opportunities, but in fact most "opportunities" require people to SELL OUT on their ethical and moral standards to get in, and keep, their corporate carreer path going.

For example, a graduate with a B.Sc. takes a job with Monsanto and finds themselves signing secrecy agreements in order to work on genetic engineering projects.

Or, an engineering grad gets an "opportunity" with a defence contractor corporation and is asked to create bioweapons.

So then those two people quit their jobs, their conscience is causing them a great deal of stress... they find they have been blacklisted when they go to find other jobs in their field.

Did the blow their opportunity or listen to their conscience? And if that is the choice, we have run into a brick wall - work for the evil empire or starve.

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Excellent examples and I have been there re the secrecy agreements. Whistle blower laws are supposed to invalidate the agreements and protect the whistle blower, just like the Ledbetter law is supposed to secure equal pay for omen across the board. And the data shows.......? Well, it is a start. Did the 1964 Civil Rights act secure equality for minorities?

[-] 1 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

We have a long way to go, even if we have come a long way!!

I was a little to young to be involved in the 1960s, but "selling out" was a real concern for lots of young people. I was disappointed to see that most of my high school peers went mainstream because I thought we were going to change things, make a better world but look at the world now, it is way worse.

[-] 3 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Some people believed that all they had to do was to vote for folks who said the right things. Turned out they forgot that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

They were lazy. They are still lazy. And they are too lazy to see that they are the reason that things are so bad.

[-] 1 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

Yes they are, they are unwilling to see problems, and when problems become too obvious theyn they don't want to change their habits unless - it is too much trouble; "someone else fix this" "don't rock the boat"

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

We want change. You change. I'll stay the same. That kind of change.

[-] 1 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

So what will it take to shake them from their passive ways? They are, so far, able to keep themselves from seeing the problems, from admitting that this path is not sustainable - and that applies to the Elites too, the CEOs who get angry at the interferance from activists - the refuse to see the problems. How bad will things get before they are wakened?

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

CEO's will never wake up and if the do they will simply relocate out. They have so much money off shore it is all about where they want to live. The 99% is going back to buying houses and cars that they nearly can't afford. They have a two position switch, snooze and panic. They are too lazy or too tired from all of the unpaid overtime they are working to work for real change. Wish there were more reason for optimism, but we have to build from reality. Your butt is probably already full of smoke?

[-] 1 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

Whaaa? I don't get that buttsmoke - do you think I am disagreeing with you? Not at all, we are saying the same things .

Anyhooo, if people would wake up and see the problems, they would join OWS, but most of the 99% are not actually OWS supporters - we are trying to make the world better for them too though.

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

No, I didn't think that at all. People blowing the smoke are those who are trying to fool you about what is really happening for their agenda. Both extremes.

"Blowing smoke up your a** " is an expression that is even older than I am, so don't try to credit me with it.

[-] 3 points by Karlin (350) from Nelson, BC 1 year ago

Ha ha, I hoped I was wrong... I am a bit slow at times, lol Ok, I get it - people are blowing smoke makes sense... but "up my butt" - it is a bit of an odd expression, I would like to see them try [on someone else maybe] LoL.

seriously, folks, ya, get with it and quit playing their game - corporate culture has your wrapped around their finger. Responding to every ad, and letting your boss jerk your chain, selling out your morals and pride for a crap job. - The American dream is DEAD!! Its time to revolt instead of watching the world burn on TV from the comfort of your couch instead of putting the flames out. Join us,. Join OWS

[-] 0 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 1 year ago

Honestly, it was probably always a myth, although lots of people have immigrated here and continue to do so.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Just heard a story today here in my community. A teacher (my wife's friend) had an Asian girl in her second grade class, no English. She was trying hard, and learned to read a little, phonetically, by the end of the year. She graduated last spring as her school valedictorian. There is a message in there somewhere.

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 1 year ago

I think that we trump it up so much here, I mean, that situation could happen in almost any 1st world country, I think.

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Anecdotes are more interesting than statistics but more useful for inspiration than setting policy.

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 1 year ago

What do think the odds would be of that happening here vs, say, France?

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Simple answer is I don't know. The reasons are since we don't have any objective measure in the example, only that she outperformed a mix of immigrant and non immigrant students in proportions we don't know. I do know that this school has many Hispanic students, 1st and second generation and the district has about 27 first languages other than English. On the other hand, some areas of France have many northern African immigrants. Asian immigrants are very frequently are high academic performers here. I don't know much about French schools although my grandson did a semester abroad in Germany with a lot of French students and some north Africans and the French seemed to hold their own.

They did behave very French, but other than that there was little that could be generalized from the experience. That is why I said, "There is a message in there somewhere." without jumping to the cliche's.

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

The American Dream is but a little more security in a more comfortable cave.

Slay the Dragon, or it will eat you.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Or, notice that they don't exist and start working on some thermal drapes for the cave. It's downright chilly in here.

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

The evil portents are here, and there, and everywhere - food for thought, call it a premonition. The mind doth hunger, and so do I: we go to slay the dragon.

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Write, if you find (it) work(s).

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

Words and daggers, beggars and baggers... we shall live for but one day; where will you stand in the fray?

[-] 2 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

I shall live for the morrow and morn you but a day.

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

Don't cry for me, Argentina... the warrior's heaven is but a cantina. And you know what they say, those who forget life are destined to repeat it.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

That would be re incarceration, wouldn't it?

[-] 0 points by yobstreet (-575) 1 year ago

Some would say life isn't worth living if it isn't worth dying for.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 1 year ago

Some will say almost anything, to anyone, at any time, and not mean a word of it. Follow the money.